Sunday, April 23, 2006


After the conference in Riga, I went back to Lithuania for another meeting. This time I went to the beautiful town of Druskininkai, a spa town close to the borders to Belarus and Poland, situated in a picturesque landscape with rivers (Ratnycia and Neman), lakes, hills and forests.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Druskininkai spa resort became one of the most popular resorts in the area, with tourists and reconvalescents coming from all over the world. It also became a place of summer residence for middle class of Vilnius, Warsaw and Moscow. After the World War I the town became part of Poland and soon became one of the three most popular Polish resorts. After the Soviet aggression in 1939 and a staged "referendum", the town was incorporated into Belarusian SSR. Following the World War II Druskininkai was transferred to the Lithuanian SSR. Starting with 1951, it began to grow rapidly and several huge sanatoriums and spa hospitals were opened. The city became a famous resort, attracting around 400,000 visitors per year from all over the Soviet Union. During the last few years, Druskininkai began a fast revival. Sanatoriums, spa's and city's infrastructure were started to be renovated both by municipality and businesses. Numbers of visitors and tourists, especially from Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Israel increase every year. Nowadays, approximately 30 different illnesses are treated in Druskininkai. Despite demolitions during the World War I, the city features houses and villas reflecting all periods of its development - Russian, Polish and modern.

Apart from the beauty of the town, I will always remember Druskininkai for the nice people I met, today's sunny morning and the quietness of the parks bordering the river. And, of course, for the nice full-body massage I had yesterday!


For the ones who weren't able to find out which is the most recent addition to the list of countries I have visited, I can tell it was Latvia. Last Thursday I flew to Vilnius and, then, went by car to Riga.

Riga, the capital of Latvia, is situated on the Baltic Sea coast on the mouth of the River Daugava. Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States (population of around 740,000) and serves as a major cultural, educational, political, financial, commercial and industrial centre in the Baltics. The Historic Centre of Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is particularly notable for its extensive Art Noveau architecture, comparable in significance only with Vienna, Prague and Barcelona.

I was in Riga for less than 24 hours and I wasn't able to learn much more about this apparently very nice city. One thing I know, however, is that I want to go back!

Countries I have visited - New Update!

Monday, April 17, 2006


Easter is the most important religious holiday of the Christian liturgical year, observed to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe occurred after his death by crucifixion. In most languages of Christian societies, other than English, German and some Slavic languages, the holiday's name is derived from Pesach, the Hebrew name of Passover, a Jewish holiday to which the Christian Easter is intimately linked. The English and German names, "Easter" and "Ostern" are related to ancient names for the month of April, Eostremonat and Ostaramanoth respectively, which was dedicated to the pagan fertility goddess Eostre.
The Easter festival is kept in many different ways among Western Christians. The traditional, liturgical observation of Easter, as practiced among Roman Catholics and some Lutherans and Anglicans begins on the night of Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil. This, the most important and most beautiful liturgy of the year, begins in total darkness with the blessing of the Easter fire, the lighting of the large Paschal candle (symbolic of the Risen Christ) and the chanting of the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation attributed to Saint Ambrose of Milan. After this service of light, a number of readings from the Old Testament are read; these tell the stories of creation, the sacrifice of Isaac, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the foretold coming of the Messiah. This part of the service climaxes with the singing of the Alleluia and the proclamation of the gospel of the resurrection. A sermon may be preached after the gospel. Then the focus moves from the lectern to the font. Anciently, Easter was considered the most perfect time to receive baptism and this practice is alive in Roman Catholicism, as it is the time when new members are initiated into the Church, and it is being revived in some other circles. Whether there are baptisms at this point or not, it is traditional for the congregation to renew the vows of their baptismal faith. This act is often sealed by the sprinkling of the congregation with holy water from the font. The Catholic sacrament of Confirmation is also celebrated at the Vigil. The Easter Vigil concludes with the celebration of the Eucharist and Holy Communion. Additional celebrations are usually offered on Easter Sunday itself. Some churches read the Old Testament lessons before the procession of the Paschal candle, and then read the gospel immediately after the Exsultet. Some churches prefer to keep this vigil very early on the Sunday morning instead of the Saturday night, particularly Protestant churches, to reflect the gospel account of the women coming to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. These services are known as the Sunrise service and often occur in outdoor setting such as the church's yard or a nearby park.
Where I come from, Easter is also a day to gather the enlarged family and celebrate our faith together. This year, for the first time in my life, I wasn't at home for Easter. I therefore gathered with some friends at Ante's place and spent the day eating, drinking and sharing cultural differences and common approaches. It was a very nice Easter day and even though I missed my family, I enjoyed the company of new good friends.
Some of them are believers, some others don't. But I guess that, in a way or another, we all understood the main message of Christ's resurrection: History can never be stopped!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Good Friday is a holy day celebrated by Christians on the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus at the Calvary, a voluntary and vicarious act and one by which, along with resurrection, death itself was defeated. According to tradition and some historic facts, this happened in the year 33.
In 1998, death was once again defeated. A major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process took place, when, in Belfast, the British and Irish governments signed and most Northern Ireland political parties endorsed the Good Friday Agreement. Amongst many other things, the agreement established the commitment by all parties to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Jesus didn't die in vain!

Back to Blog

Three weeks without posting... Three intense weeks, full of meaningful events, during which I often felt the will to log in and post; but also three weeks in which I was absolutely unable to do it... Sometimes because of the huge workload, other because of not having access to internet, and other simply because I was too tired or engaged in more interesting activities.
There's no point in trying to recover and summarise all those events, feelings and ideas, though. I've learned that blogging is something connected to one given moment, one certain circumstance, one precise state of mind. At least for me...
Little by little, as time will go by and other events and feelings and ideas will come, I will try to come back to what I once wanted to write and share with you. In case you're still there... If that's not the case, then I'm the only one to blame... and life has taught me not to blame myself in vain. Welcome back!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Morning walk...

Today I woke up quite early. Maybe the fact that I am more relaxed after a period with a lot of work and stress helped. As well as I believe that the relaxing session in the gym last night (after almost two months) made a difference.

The sense of wellness and energy contributed to my decision to walk to the office. And it was a nice walk. We live in a very pleasant and quite part of the Brussels, so the walk became quite pleasant, up Broqueville until square Maréchal Montgomery, going down Avenue de Tervuren and crossing Parc du Cinquantenaire.

In the Parc I could start to feel the movement in the city. There were already many crossing it enjoying, as me, the pleasant weather of this early April morning. In the Parc we feel away from the city for a while, listening to the birds, feeling the quietness, until we start to get close to the buildings of the EU district.

Going down I pay my tribute to Robert Schuman while crossing the Round Point with is name, just before facing one of the EU symbols, Berlaymont, “the Commission”. A huge banner tells us that EU is open for all since today (what will the Turks or Romanians think of this?). Ups, it’s only “.eu” that is open for all.

Going down Rue de la Loi, I see closer the new EU Library building which construction we’ve been following from our office, just opposite to it. I found it to big and to close to the street, making out of Rue de la Loi a narrower passage over EC domains.

After 40 minutes walking I head towards the small café at the Maalbek metro. Walking or not, the morning coffee is more than a need, is a ritual, for me and millions of Portuguese. Before I get there I cross with a group of Japanese coming out of Crown Plaza. Some of them were wearing masks, which puzzled me. Is Brussels that polluted? OK, maybe if compared to Tokyo.

I have a quick read over the newspaper, rushing in order to get to the Sudoku grid. Enough to find out that Nokia (the town) is quitting land line phones (surprise, surprise) and every worker will get a mobile phone (yeah, right! Like if they didn’t have one now). At the same time half of the houses in Belgium have internet connection and a quarter does not have land line phones (which could be even more, if some of them like me, didn’t have a phone just because of the internet access). In France, Villepin insists with “CPE”, maybe expecting that Easter Holidays could cool down the demonstrations. Maybe he is wrong once more. And there were also no-news, like Bush involved in one more of his messy stories. Unfortunatelly on Belarus noting. Forgotten!

Finally I refuge on Sudoku. Not so needed today as in other days.
My brain was already working properly…